Have you ever struggled with a particular sin? Are there areas of sin you feel powerless over? These verses address how sin’s power is broken for the believer because the One who lives in us is greater than the enemy we do battle with.
Previously Paul has been dealing with salvation by grace, regardless of one’s ancestry or anything else they might appeal to. Now he approaches the subject of sanctification. Though defined differently by believers, sanctification is not about being delivered from sin’s presence but from its control. His words remind us that even though we receive a new nature at salvation, we still do battle with the flesh—our old ways of acting and thinking learned before coming to Christ.
Sin is Senseless Because We Have Died to It (vv. 1-2).
If our sin resulted in God manifesting his grace through Christ, then it appears more of it would make his grace more evident. If our sin results in God’s forgiveness, then why not give him more opportunity to forgive by sinning more? And if sinfulness results in God showing kindness in spite of evil, then why not give him occasion to show more kindness? Further, if forgiveness is guaranteed in Christ, then does this mean we can simply sin as much as we desire?
People who reach such conclusions have not appreciated the seriousness of sin or the majesty of God’s grace. If indeed a believer, they have a monumental misunderstanding of the Christian life. When sin and its consequences are truly understood, we will never desire to take advantage of God’s grace by sinning so we can experience more of his grace and forgiveness. Being assured of God’s mercy is not an excuse for careless living.
Paul asks a pointed question. If we have died to sin how can we continue to live in it? A believer who does is living a contradictory life and is demonstrating their misunderstanding of God’s grace, the seriousness of sin, and possibly their true lack of connection with Christ. Paul recognized his statement would probably result in the above conclusions by some in the church at Rome.
Paul’s question touches the matter of how many sins are forgiven at the moment of salvation. If we believe all are, then we could well reach the same conclusion. If all sins are forgiven, why does it matter how we live? Again, such reasoning reveals a misunderstanding of sin’s seriousness and what takes place in the salvation experience. We can believe all sins are forgiven at salvation without going to this extreme.
An accurate appraisal of sin enables us to avoid two extremes in our thinking: that it is permissible to sin and not worry about it and becoming so legalistic that the Christian life loses all meaning and joy. We live in a society which is constantly pulling us toward tolerance in our views, attitudes, and decisions about many matters. And while we must love all people, we are never instructed to tolerate sinful situations to accomplish that—at least not in the sense that we accept them without trying to change the status quo.
Why will the believer have a different attitude about sin? Paul maintains it is because we have died to sin—not to acts of sin but to them being the norm and practice of life. Not only did Christ die for our sins, but in accepting him we agreed to die to sin.
Sin is Senseless Because We Were Baptized with Christ (vv. 3-4).
Paul introduces baptism as another proof of sin’s senselessness in the believer’s life. He speaks of the literal act as well as what it symbolizes. At the moment of our belief, we are baptized with Christ into his death. This precedes the actual act of baptism, which is symbolic. Not only are we baptized into Christ’s death, but we are also baptized into his burial. Paul refers to a mystical union, and we should respond as we normally would after witnessing a magic trick we don’t understand: “How did he do that?”
The actual act of baptism—by whatever method—symbolizes our death to sin and our resurrection to new life in Christ. In speaking of sin as a practice in the believer’s life, Paul uses the practice of baptism to remind us sin has died and been buried as it relates to everyday living. To say it another way, we should consider a life of sin dead and buried. If immersion was practiced by the early church, then the word buried would carry even more significance for Paul’s hearers.
Sin should no longer be desirable or necessary. We are no longer under condemnation for our sins. Nor do we have to worry about having to face God’s judgment.
Sin is Senseless Because We Have Been Raised with Christ (vv. 4-11).
Paul introduces not only Christ’s death but also his resurrection as it relates to sin’s senselessness. He emphasizes the importance of the resurrection in another epistle (1 Corinthians 15) and concludes forgiveness depends on the validity of the resurrection. If Christ only died for our sins but was not resurrected, then the payment was useless and not accepted by God, and we are the most miserable people because we have hope only in this world. Our faith is futile. It is not only important that we died with Christ on Calvary but that we were also raised with him as well. This shows God accepted Jesus’ payment for our sins.
Our current life is new for it is controlled by new desires and a new energy to live above sin’s power. Our sinful nature was crucified with Christ on the cross, which has led to sin losing power over us. We are no longer slaves to sin. Christ’s utterance, “It is finished,” was not simply a statement of impending death. It was a commentary on his work; he paid for our sins.
A slave is only allowed to do what his master tells or allows him to, and this is identical to our state apart from Christ where sin is concerned. Lack of knowledge can lead one to continue living as a slave even though they no longer are. It is similar to a dog accustomed to life on a chain. The master may unleash him, but the dog continues to roam within the confines of his circle because he doesn’t know he’s free. It is vitally important for believers to understand what has happened to them. A radical change has ensued. Sin is no longer our master. Christ is.
Our new-found freedom affects everything we do. No longer should we live with fear, worry, or anxiety. This changes our attitude and perspective. Nor should we fear death. Though we may physically die, spiritual and eternal death has no power over us. This absence of fear results in new vigor. Awareness of our position is essential for abundant living. We have goals to pursue and plans to make, for God has both of the aforementioned in mind for us.
An absence of fear, coupled with the knowledge God is in control of our life, gives a different perspective on work, worship, play, Bible study, and our service to others.